It had to be her.
We will have our first female president someday. It will be a wonderful, joyous occasion. But it will be different. It should have been Hillary. It was the perfect narrative: finishing off nearly thirty years of attacks by being elected as the first woman to the Oval Office, all the while defeating the near perfect embodiment of male entitlement. People would oppose her, viciously. There is a history of that, and that is the nature of trailblazers. But as always, she would push forward, proving she could get things done while unifying the country. My daughter would be surprised when I told her that not only did I vote to elect the first female president, but I was also there when it happened. Because for her, seeing a woman serve as president of the most powerful country in the world would be normal and completely un-extraordinary.
I can say that I have been working years – yes, literally years – to elect Hillary as our first woman president. I didn’t realize how long it’s been until I reflected these past few days. My freshman year I began meeting an extraordinary group of women organizing Ready for Hillary and involved in the Connecticut Democratic Party Women’s Caucus, who continue to be mentors and role models. So many have been supporting her and working for progressive causes for so long, and I was excited to be a part of it, in an intergenerational sort of way. I’ve always believed in Hillary as a candidate, but it’s also always been personal. As an 18-year-old who was passionate about politics and her community, but had really no history of campaign experience, and no family members or friends who were involved in politics, these women made me feel like I had a place and maybe a real chance at a future doing what I love.
I’ve realized how many times over the years I’ve been talking about my support for Hillary as a candidate, and I’ve been asked or felt the need to qualify it.
“I understand why you think she’s untrustworthy…”
“Yes she has evolved in some issues…”
“I can see why she may be a flawed candidate….”
Well, a candidate so “flawed” his own campaign team can’t stop him from tweeting at 3 a.m. to slut-shame a woman who he ridiculed nationally for gaining weight is now the president-elect of the United States. And I am livid.
I have been so sad these past few days. But now I am angry. I have been inspired by how so many people have responded to this election, already committed to working forward. But I didn’t want to pretend what I was feeling was not crushing. It would be dishonest and unproductive long-term if I didn’t take the time to take it all in. I’ve been sad for what I fear is potential and past progress lost, going backwards, and to those who I fear Trump sold a false promise. I’ve been sad for the acceptance of a new normal and what we’ve seen already happen within the last few days, horrifying acts of blatant racism on the streets and the rise of bullying in schools. I’ve been sad because I wonder if people either resent me for supporting a candidate whom they believe was destined to fail, or simply think I was naïve.
I am angry because I do not believe, and quite frankly do not see myself believing in the future, that the results of this election are what they should be. But I accept them and am not vindictive, nor believe we can afford to be. The gut-punched feeling is still there. But I am going to do everything I can to work through and make sure that the sadness, fear, self-doubt and defeat is not – and that when it is, it will not stop me. At least I’ll be able to tell my daughter that, while building the world I hope she grows up in. I hope that the millions of Americans who made Hillary Clinton the first woman to ever win the popular vote for president are with me, when they are ready.
Many people, including myself, have come together to say and sincerely hope President-elect Trump does a good job. But I have no misgivings to say we will have serious disagreements about what is considered “good.” Right now, any optimism such that such hope will be realized is awfully low, and some serious damage has already been done that is in need of incredible healing. It is going to take all of us. Moving forward together is not mutually exclusive to standing up, fiercely, for what you believe in. In fact, they need to go hand in hand. There’s no other way.
I will never forget being at the Javits Convention Center that night, or at her speech at the New Yorker hotel the next morning. I did not expect to meet a personal hero of mine in such a way that morning, but I am trying to believe it happened for a reason. Being in that room felt somewhat dramatic, as if I had stepped into a scene from history. Yet it also felt so personal. I took her words to heart and have been replaying them in my head. While listening and watching her onstage, I was admittedly caught up thinking, “This woman should be president of the United States.” However there is really no time for “what if’s” or “should be’s” unless they’re providing a vision or inspiration for the future you want to work towards and someday achieve. That’s what Hillary taught all of us.
Her grace, dignity and strength will define her legacy and continue as an inspiration for so many. Fighting for decades for what’s right, coming so close to breaking the “glass ceiling” but, by example, paving the way so that maybe it will be a little easier next time.
It had to be her.